Manifold Mischief

Mission reviews, essays, and documents of record regarding The Matrix Online. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Sugar Shack 59: Rickshaw: The Inner Void

Sugar Shack 59: Rickshaw: The Inner Void

If you’re like me, and have gotten used to the control-freak high-maintenance Exiles like the Weaver and The Jeweler, you’re in for a big shock with this. Facing (at 90, 1, -300 in Kaede) the phlegmatic Sisters of Fate, oblivious to the spray of water dousing him from the nearby fountain, Rickshaw never seems to know what’s going on. He wins, hands down, for the sloppiest Exile in any neighborhood, from the tatty hat to the out-of-step shoes. Obviously, he shops at Goodwill on its off days. In fact, in his obtuse cluelessness, he’s right up there with Pepper and (less entertainingly) with Rose. When you show up, he says nothing about his story, or who he is or what he cares about. He just asks you to go run an errand. It’s like walking into your father’s study, and he gives you something to go mail. I took an instant dislike to him. He should have been one of the first Exiles I worked with, instead of one of the last; I’d have been more forgiving.

1. Mistaken Identity

“Hi, can you deliver something for a contact of mine?” That’s how it starts: full of soul and connection. Rickshaw’s slapdash, slipshod approach to his affairs is nowhere more evident that on this first mish. He gets the name wrong! Then when you arrive, you are greeted by a haughty Elite Guard who takes one look at you and sneers, “Feh. You don’t look like you belong here, pansy”. Most likely, he saves this for anyone working for Rickshaw. Eventually you connect with someone who knows nothing of Rickshaw or your mission, but demands to know your “sponsor”. Rickshaw’s feedback is: “Sure, fine, whatever. Hurry!” You have stumbled into a game played by Exiles, wherein they try to kill each other! The name is Exiles Underground Games (perhaps a reversal of the ancient, ancient GUE). It seems like something they’d play with paintball, if the paint was replaced by hot lead. Survive and you’re done. Rickshaw mumbles some barely articulate thanks. This time I counted my money twice, mindful of his sloppy approach to everything. After all, maybe he would overpay.

2. Let the Games Begin

You make a delivery to one Caroline, identified as the leader of the Sisters of Fate. The Step-Sisters of Fate might be a better name, since their leader has fallen under the sway of your ultimate target in this mish, the Ventriloquist, who uses her to send you off on a side-quest for a CD (a trance dance mix, I think). You victory over him frees her, and sets you up for your next adversary, the Necromancer. A little predictable, but not a bad mish at all.

3. Replay

An “operative” of Rickshaw’s, with a desired device, needs help. After a skirmish, you find out that she is dead. This sends you to the next scene, with Rickshaw crying “Kill more people! Go! Kill!”. You discover that your adversary in this mission, the Necromancer, has revived and controls the operative, now a resurrected automaton that he sends to fight you. Eventually you put them both down, but it was an unsavory first to be killing undead Exiles for the sake of a repugnant game. On the other hand, it was quite satisfying for me to send the Necromancer to join his unwilling servants in the chilly sludge of the Source.

4. Out of Bounds

You may recall that your dossier from last time at the end identified your next target as the Chameleon. Since this meant he could be anyone, it made things quite easy! Once again the careless Rickshaw wails about his “stolen stuff” (how like a child!). This time your contact has a search of his own, for the “White Knight Virus” (an allusion to the Chessman that is not developed at all). You know how this goes. Break in, firefight, loot, and off to meet your contact. Your contact, predictably, is the Chameleon, and attacks you. When I phoned Rickshaw, breathless, he cut me off abruptly- “You got all my stuff back?” I was mightily temped to hurl it in the river.

But wait! There was some gold here! One contact looked at me, took a long drag on a scented smoke, and reflected “Humans hurt Exiles because they fear us. Exiles hurt each other because they fear everything.” Great thought to ponder long after the game has run its dolorous course.

5. Game Over?

In this mish, you simply start by getting some lost plans from a safe, at which point you are pulled into your confrontation with the main adversary in this episode: Agent Lee and his minions. Agent Lee is quite engaging, and rather than fight invites you to take a chance with him and his two assistants. Give one of them the plans, and the door she represents is unlocked. Inevitably you get a fight, not a safe harbor. Just as inevitably Lee and his team engage you. As their banter suggests, Lee is (Big Spoiler coming!)…the Gambler, and aims to win at your expense. The dialog is well done, and there’s more characterization in this encounter than in everything Rickshaw does. In fact, “Agent Lee” deserves his own suite of missions!

At the end, among the smoking, coding corpses, you alone stand alive to tell the tale. You, that is, and Rickshaw, who blurts “I like you, Sugaree! You do good work!” before he sinks into surfeited silence. At least he paid me.

Bugs?: In a couple of the missions I noticed that the text displayed out of order. That is, at the end I would read my operator’s comments on what someone had said before I read the statements being commented on.

Conclusion: The concept of Exiles playing games with each other is ingenious. The observations about them and their motivations are unique. The plot machinations and speech of each adversary are well-done. In fact, they’re far more engaging than sleezeball Rickshaw! And I liked the way you seem to stumble into the whole thing, reminiscent of The Game or even North by Northwest. These are all great strengths. On the other hand, Rickshaw as a character has nothing going for him: no backstory, no alliances or motivation. And the way he dresses! Getting missions from a vending machine would be about as personal and personable as this. His frenetic behavior covers up an inner void and bad teeth.

Afterthought: I felt so anxious in my skin throughout the rush of Rickshaw’s pointless tasks. Everything was touched with foreboding. Only as I turned my back on him for the last time did it occur to me that a single Exile remained for me to do. And as much as I dreaded it, the end of the Exiles was fast approaching for me.